Constipation is a common problem among people of all ages. Often, those experiencing symptoms describe having hard or pebbly stools, having infrequent bowel movements or straining while trying to use the bathroom. People may also complain of stomach pains, bloating, gas or being unable to have a full bowel movement. These symptoms may vary with each individual.
Constipation can be caused by many different problems, but the most common reasons are a lack of fiber in your diet and not drinking enough water. Certain medications or iron supplements can also contribute to constipation.
There are several things you can do to prevent constipation, one of which is making sure you are consuming enough fiber. Eating enough fiber helps to soften your stool and helps your body to move waste through your digestive tract. It is recommended that you eat 20 to 35 grams of fiber every day.
Fiber can be found in many vegetables; grains such as whole wheat, oatmeal, bran, brown rice; nuts; and fruits such as apples, cherries, peaches, and grapes. Whole fruits are particularly helpful in preventing constipation because their sugars help to keep more water in the intestines which softens your stool. Prunes, raisins, and other dried fruits are often used to relieve constipation because they have high amounts of fiber and sugar. If you are diabetic, be careful when choosing the fruits you eat, as some are very rich in sugar.
Adopting other healthy habits can also reduce the occurrence of constipation. Exercise can help improve your bowel movements; moving your body promotes movement along your digestive system. Using the bathroom around the same time every day is also beneficial and will help your body to develop a routine. Most people tend to go more frequently in the morning as the activity in their digestive tract peaks shortly after waking up. If you feel the need to have a bowel movement at other times throughout the day, it is best to go and not hold it in as this can also lead to constipation.
Laxatives (over-the-counter and prescription) are often used as a form of relief from constipation; however, it is important to keep in mind that the frequent use of laxatives is not recommended as your body may become dependent on them for bowel movements.
Just about everyone will have difficulty with going to the bathroom from time-to-time; however, if symptoms of constipation persist for more than three weeks, or if you are experiencing blood in your stools or stomach pain, you should see your physician. There may be a more serious cause for your constipation.
Please do not hesitate to talk to your doctor if you are concerned about changes in your bowel movements. To schedule an appointment with a Family Medicine physician at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, please call 718-206-6942.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.